The Shine Journal

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In the Summer Rain




Ian Ross





Every summer evening we would get together and dance behind Old Lady Swinton’s garden shed.  We would smoke cigarettes and share a bottle of Basker’s Premium Gin while we moved our hips to whatever tune was playing from the little radio that Robby Richards had stolen last winter.  Not even the heavy rain of July could prevent our unsupervised gathering.  Twirling umbrellas would shield our youthful bodies from the water and all the boys and girls would kiss one another with wet faces.


The truth of the matter is that I didn’t quite belong behind the rundown shed, for at the time (thirty years ago now) I was the youngest of all the midnight dancers.  My brother, Terry, allowed me to come along and dance with his friends, the other high school freshmen who had recently struck the first hour of puberty.  I had not. 


The garden shed was painted a crimson red, or had been at one point.  Now it was peeling from the cruelty of time and what looked like the scratches of wild animals.  It was not particularly big, but it gave us the feeling of privacy, and indeed we were private; Old Lady Swinton’s backyard was the largest in the entire neighborhood.  The short chain link fence that we hopped over every evening was yards away, and the nearest house was even farther.  One could see the old woman’s mansion in the distance with a golden light coming from her bedroom window, but she was famously deaf and, as far as we knew, never heard our music.  There was also the constant, mysterious smell of wet grass, whether or not there had been a single drop from the sky. Though we were out in the open back there, it was a sanctuary, a place of our own.


We were moving our hips, thrusting at the air, humping invisible lovers and holding hands with members of the opposite sex, when Melissa Cherries walked to the sidelines and lit up a cigarette.  She had just been dancing next to the bad boy of the group, Robby Richards, and he had ignored her as he always did, for Melissa was chubby with grimy blonde hair.  Her whole life she had been considered brainy and unattractive and though she danced with the most enthusiasm of any of the girls, all of the boys ignored her gyrations.  No one ever kissed Melissa in the rain.


I decided to take a break from the dancing and joined her for a cigarette.  I treaded through the ankle high weeds and leaned against the shed, asking her for a smoke.


“Of course,” she said, and handed me a new one.




The music was loud and the radio played a recognizable disco song from that year.  It modernized the old garden in a thrilling way, securing the feeling of ownership of the area.  My brother was holding hands with a tall, rather lanky brunette whose name I could never remember.  Robby Richards took a sip from the bottle of gin that lay on the sidelines of the grassy dance floor.


“Do you ever want out of here?  Just, you know, out of this town?” Melissa asked without looking at me.


“I don’t know,” I said.


“I want to travel around the world sometime, like in a plane or something.  I want to see Rome and Cairo and Paris.  Oh, I want to see Paris.”  She inhaled the cigarette slowly.  “One day we won’t dance together; we’ll forget everybody and we’ll all have kids and stuff.  When that happens, I don’t want to be here.”


Something struck me about this statement, something very sad.  That backyard that felt more like home than home itself began to feel foreign and unsatisfying.  Everyone was waving their arms, bouncing their shoulders and shaking their rears, and it was all artificial.  It’s strange to feel an instant depression, but there was no escaping it.  This type of partying was temporary, fake, and one day we’d all have to grow up and change into the adults we rebelled against.  But I refused to let that ruin what was, in truth, a hell of a lot of fun.


I turned to the plump girl next to me.  “Would you like to dance, Melissa?”


She hesitated for a moment, as if what I just asked wasn’t real.  “Yes,” she said with a grin.


We tossed our cigarettes into the dirt and I grabbed her hand and led her through the rough grass that reached up to you like groping fingers, taking her to the very center of our dance floor.  We began to hump the air like everyone else, and there was a beautiful smile imprinted on her face.  Just then, when the air was hottest, it started to rain.


Bio: Ian Ross is a recent film making graduate of the Center for Digital Imaging Arts at Boston University.  The short films he has written have won awards at film festivals up and down the east coast.  He lives in the Boston area and spends his time honing his craft and taking writing classes.

Motivation: This was inspired by an assignment for an Advanced Fiction Course, and after its initial feedback (which was incredibly positive), I expanded and elaborated it until I felt it was deeper and had more emotional resonance.

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